Family Values: Adolfo's first trip to the range with father and older brother
As a parent I am continuously amazed on how my young children remind me of what's really important in life.
I can still recall the first time my father and my grandfather took me shooting at the family farm. To this day I can recall every single detail of my father's lessons on gun safety, the responsibility of handling a loaded firearm and basic shooting techniques. As I recall that day, it seems I am still shooting my father's Smith and Wesson model 41. When I was older my father bought me my first rifle. Later on, we would purchase various firearms together and spend time at the range.
While in law school I obtained my conceal and carry permit as well as my private investigator license. I also had the opportunity to attend an NRA Regional Police Firearms Instructor Development School and take courses on self-protection and shooting marksmanship. My father's passion for shooting sports was soon becoming my passion.
When I started dating my wife I asked her to get her shooting permit so that we could spend time together at the shooting range. She did.
Now as a father of three, Antonio Jr. (7), Adolfo (4) and toddler Ilana, I look forward to passing on the passion and responsibility of owning firearms to my children. This holiday season, when Adolfo turned four, Antonio Jr. asked me if we could bring his younger brother along to the shooting range. As the three of us were getting ready to leave, Adolfo asked me if his little sister could come along. I tried to explain to him that his 11 month-old sister was still too young, yet he insisted. After a couple of minutes of not understanding why we couldn't go shooting as a family, he finally understood that he was coming with his older brother and myself because he was now four!
As we drove to the range it was a bittersweet ride for me. While Antonio Jr. was anxious to try his new .22 Henry Survival Rifle and Adolfo was eager to shoot his brother's BB rifle, my father could not join his grandchildren on Adolfo's first trip to the range because he passed away last summer.
After Antonio Jr. finished shooting a couple of rounds with his new rifle, it was Adolfo's turn. As I helped him steady his BB gun, Antonio cut in. He looked at his little brother and stared: "Adolfo, this is a great responsibility, never point the rifle at anyone, don't put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot, take your time aiming, release the safety, take a large breath and squeeze the trigger." Antonio Jr. would then try to explain to his brother where he believed his shot had gone. Adolfo, who has great admiration for his older brother, did not blink during the entire lesson.
As I watched my young boys help each other with their marksmanship skills my eyes teared up. I went back to remember my time with my father and grandfather at the family farm. At that very moment I understood what my father and grandfather new some thirty two years ago, shooting with your children is not only about firearms' safety and marksmanship, it's about doing what you enjoy with the people you love. My two boys reminded me of the simpler things in life that day at the range. It's a shame that these days not everyone comprehends and/or accepts that many of us enjoy spending our family time at the range with the ones we love.
I look forward to when Ilana turns four and the whole family can be there for her first shot!
Antonio Hernandez is an attorney from San Juan, Puerto Rico, currently running for the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association. He was instrumental in the passage of "shall issue" in an otherwise very restrictive territory. Antonio Hernandez serves on the NRA's Legal Affairs and Urban Affairs Committees and has been a Spanish language outreach spokesman for the NRA.